It is estimated that 25.8 million men, women and children in the United States have diabetes. That is almost 10 percent of our population! To make matters worse, 1 in 400 of our children are being diagnosed with diabetes every year. Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin, a hormone that is needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy needed for daily life. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the risk for death is approximately twice that of persons of similar age without diabetes.
In order to manage diabetes, it is essential for people to make healthy lifestyle choices in diet, exercise, and other health habits. Another important factor when treating diabetes is creating a support team of health care professionals. This support team may include your primary doctor, an eye doctor, a dietitian or certified nutritionist, and a licensed acupuncturist. “Why Acupuncture?” you may ask.
Acupuncture and herbal medicine have been used to treat diabetes for over 2000 years. A patient with “Xiao Ke” or “wasting and thirsting disease” (the Traditional Chinese medical term for diabetes) is discussed in detail in the Nei Jing, a classic Chinese medical book written about 2,500 years ago. The patient is described as having symptoms of excessive hunger and thirst, frequent urination and rapid weight loss, all symptoms of diabetes.
Scientific studies and clinical tests in international research centers in the past 10 years have shown that acupuncture can help diabetic patients in the following ways:
- lower blood glucose content
- lower the release of pancreatic glucagons
- reduce symptoms of polyphagia (the urge to eat too much), polydipsia (excessive thirst) and polyuria (excessive passage of urine)
- prevent slowing of motor nerve conduction
- improve microcirculation and myocardial contractility
- enhance blood outflow and regulate vascular peripheral resistance
- exert antiatherogenic, antioxidant and immunomodulating effects
- obliterate antheroscelerosis of the legs
- induce secretion of endogenous beta-endorphin
- elevate a lowered pain threshold
- increase cell proliferation and neuropeptide Y levels.
Increasingly, studies are drawing definite connections between diabetes and stress. Under stress your body triggers a state of alarm–the primitive ” flight or fight ” response. The adrenal glands ( small glands that sit on top of your kidneys) release stress hormones ( cortisol & adrenalin) into the bloodstream under stress. This response also increases the levels of fat, sugar and insulin in your blood. This is to prepare you for increased energy needs to perform your ” flight or fight” response.
Digestion slows during a “flight or flight” response, and this can lead to Insulin Resistance.
Acupuncture Physicians are highly trained in relieving stress through proper nutrition and herbal medicine, as well as in correcting the normal flow of blood through the body. They often get excellent results in treating patients with digestive problems that may be occurring in people with prediabetes.
When treating diabetes, your acupuncture physician will not only assess the type of diabetes you have, but also any other secondary symptoms caused by the diabetes such as blurry vision, peripheral neuropathy, skin sores, and heart complications. At StillWaters Healing Center, we not only treat the diabetes and secondary symptoms with Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese medicine, but we also build personalized herbal formulas and counsel you on specific lifestyle and dietary changes to help manage even insulin resistant forms of diabetes.
Herbal medicine is an important component to the treatment of diabetes. Different formulas may be effective for different people, so practitioners may try several different approaches. Commonly used Chinese herbal formulas are Liu Wei Di Huang, and Da Bu Yin Wan. Studies have shown that American ginseng can improve glucose tolerance and is often added to herbal formulas. Other herbs are added to an herbal formula to treat complications of diabetes such as peripheral neuropathy and blurry vision.
While diabetes is generally a long-term condition, diabetics can manage their condition and live long, healthy lives with appropriate medical treatment and healthy lifestyle changes. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs can play a significant role in a comprehensive treatment plan to manage diabetes and its symptoms, and potentially reduce the need for medication.